|From Kiev, Ukraine|
Hi, Mom. So I am finally at the point where I can begin to relax a little bit. The jet lag is not entirely cured, but I'm on a fairly normal schedule, rising about 8 AM each morning and going to sleep by 11 or midnight each night. I still tend to wake up at 2 AM and lie there in the dark for a while, unable to get back to sleep for a few hours. But I'm getting close to solving this problem.
Life at the hostel has fallen into a routine. There is a cheerful camaraderie here, and somehow, despite a full house in recent days, there is no problem getting a shower, nor is there ever a line to the bathroom.
The first few days here, when I was tired and stressed, made for a city of danger and scowls. Now that I am finally decently rested and know of a few nice places to hang out I can finally sit back and enjoy the warmer faces of people engaged in cheerful conversation in the coffee houses and pubs around town. Heard some great live jazz last night, and today I am in a wonderful cellar pub scored by, well, more jazz, with free wi-fi. If you were on Skype we could video chat right now.
Been keeping people informed via a blog and my growing stream of web photos (if you go to the link I sent earlier you will see that it is updated each day with new images). It's interesting to post vacation photos as you go, versus the old tradition of inviting everyone to a slide show a few days after you get back.
I have learned several valuable skills already, including what to buy at the supermarket and how to tie a scarf in the proper Ukrainian way. My developing skills of argumentation and debate when dealing with Ukrainian bureaucracy should also serve me in good stead when I return. I am 38, but being in a tougher world like the one in Kiev makes me feel I have lived naively, so it's better late than never to sharpen the skills.
Perhaps tomorrow I will finally get to the embassy, now that the rush of the first few days is subsiding and a routine is beginning to emerge...
I have already made some good friends at the hostel, including an especially wise for her years young American woman who is married to a Russian man. Only 21, she has acquired more life experience already than I probably ever will. She has become everybody's mother in the hostel, frequently insisting on cooking traditional Russian meals for us because she says the ingredients would spoil before she used them otherwise.
Have been hanging out with a writer who has been published in some notable places; we have been chatting about the election from time to time as we keep running into each other at the same dives. Of course, I have made my own observations as well, though I have always been more interested in the pop cultural spectacle surrounding such events, filtering them more as an outsider; his Russian background allows him to penetrate more deeply, though differently. I think we're a Venn diagram, and that makes for good conversations since we both surprise each other with our perspectives. Anyway, I'm not the only American who came here with the idea of writing about it.
And I met a nice young Romanian woman on the plane flight over the Atlantic; we plan to meet in Bucharest soon.
In short, I have done more living in the past week than in the last year combined. I guess that's what I came here to do, and now it's happening. It's been a stressful, but also wonderful week. And really, it's not even that cold.